Madison Gallery is pleased to present New York City- based artist Hunt Slonem with his first solo exhibition in San Diego: “Butterflies & Rebirth.”
Sublimely decorative yet deeply spiritual, Hunt Slonem’s work is filled with light and color, with exotic birds, animals, saints, and Hollywood stars. His art celebrates the glory of life while underlining the threats that our civilization poses to the natural world.
Slonem’s canvases emphasize an aesthetic of ocular activity; the viewer’s eye is set in almost constant motion, flicking about to take in the entire rectangle. The butterflies themselves come into focus as his central subject only after the few seconds it takes to apprehend the whole painting. They are rarely in sharp focus; their shapes are somewhat misted and often repeated, so as to create a pattern which itself must be uncoded. Again, this all happens in only a few seconds, before the creatures can be given individuation and appreciated as belonging to a distinct species.
These matters of “only a few seconds” may seem at first to be hardly worth mentioning, but to the practiced viewer (and to anyone looking at a picture – although the process can be a much slower one) the visual experience is instantaneous. You know as much about a painting in the first blink of the eye as you will ever know. Everything else, thoughts about the subject, about technique, about meaning, come later, as our mental and verbal skills hurry to keep with what the eye already knows.
The visual field of Hunt Slonem’s paintings is a continuum accented by varying shapes and colors that, it turns out, are butterflies. What species the butterfly belongs to, while important to him, is not his entire concern; hard-edged ornithological accuracy does not form part of his intention or indeed, of his aesthetic. Slonem’s butterflies are rendered sufficiently clearly to be identifiable. They are most often in a form of softened focus, as if some painterly plane has inserted itself between the viewer and the butterflies.
The foreground, the grids themselves, are a brilliant post-cubist compositional device in Slonem’s work, made by scratching freehand lines in the wet paint, over the butterflies, with the point-end of a brush he whittles himself. In order to achieve this effect, Slonem has to work fairly fast, painting wet and then scratching into the paint before it dries.
In all of Slonem’s work, after one has studied it for a time, there is seriousness about painting. The various devices that divide the space, render it shallow, thus keeping the work coherent in its own terms, adds up to a consistent investigation of post- cubist abstraction. By varying the moods and techniques of his work in fresh and exciting ways, Hunt Slonem creates a beautiful work that continually gives joy and surprise.
Hunt Slonem was born in Kittery, Maine in 1951. His fascination with exotica imprinted during his childhood in Hawaii and experience as a foreign exchange student in Managua, Nicaragua. Since 1977, Slonem has had over 250 solo exhibitions at prestigious galleries. Museums both domestic and international have collected his work, among them The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Slonem lives and works in New York City in his legendary loft which houses an aviary for his 70 exotic birds. The studio is a work of art itself, a lush and sensuous environment, filled with not only birds and plants, but also a collection of Baroque and Neo-Gothic furniture, Blenko glass and brilliantly hued rooms that house a dazzling array of paintings in period frames. He also owns a Victorian mansion in Hudson, New York and two plantation homes in Louisiana.